George Enescu Violin Concerto – unfinished, but unforgettable

George Enescu’s earliest compositions were for violin and piano. And by early, I mean age five. Enescu was one of Romania’s most talented (and precocious) musicians. He distinguished himself both as a violinist and a composer.

Enescu’s sole violin concerto was composed in 1896 when he was 15. It was designed to be a magnum opus. The first two movements run over a half hour.

Unfortunately, Enescu abandoned the work and never wrote the concluding third movement. Nevertheless, what he did complete is impressive.

As a violinist, Enescu knew what his instrument could do. He exploits the possibilities of the violin. The soloist has plenty of opportunities to shine (and show off a little bit).

Carolin Widmann does just that. Enescu admired Brahms. Widmann brings a little of that Brahmsian phrasing to this work. I especially admired her control. There are some devilishly difficult double-stop passages. She just seems to breeze right through them.

Enescu wrote his Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra two years after the Violin Concerto. He was studying in Paris at the time. This work seems to owe more to Lizst than any French composer, though! The piano and orchestra are on equal footing. It’s a collaboration rather than a soloist/accompanist relationship.

Pianist Luiza Borac brings the energy to this work. The Fantasy is all about big emotions and big gestures. Borac delivers on both.

The NDR Radiophilharmonie directed by Peter Ruzicka has a big, brawny sound. It’s well-suited to this late-Romantic repertoire. And the expressive quality of the ensemble is worthy of note.

George Enescu: Violin Concerto; Phantasy for Piano & Orchestra
Carolin Widmann, violin; Luiza Borac, piano
NDR Radiophilharmonie; Peter Ruzicka, conductor

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